Movie reviews: Pitch Perfect 2, A Royal Night Out, The Tribe, Clouds of Sils Maria
Pitch Perfect 2, (12A, 115mins), 3 Stars
* A Royal Night Out (12A, 97mins) 2 Stars
* The Tribe, 5 Stars
* Clouds of Sils Maria, 3 Stars
A messy but winning musical comedy, Pitch Perfect was one of the surprise hits of 2012, thanks in large part to its charming star, Anna Kendrick, who played Beca Mitchell, a lonely college freshman who joins legendary a-cappella group the Barden Bellas.
In this amiable but uneven sequel, the Bellas are barred from all competitions following an embarrassing incident during a concert for the President. Their only way back is to win the world championships, and in their way stand a formidable German a-cappella group.
Where all this goes is nowhere very interesting, but there are just about enough decent jokes to keep things ticking over, and some of the musical arrangements are rousing. Ms. Kendrick and co-star Hailee Steinfeld are very good, but as in the last film, it's Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins who steal the show playing a pair of supercilious TV commentators.
On May 8, 1945, London erupted in an orgy of drunkenness and carnality as it celebrated end of war in Europe. And Julian Jarrold's whimsical, silly film A Royal Night Out imagines what might have occurred if the royal princesses had sneaked out to join the fun.
Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) are kicking their heels in Buckingham Palace as night falls when Margaret decides it would be absolutely ripping to go out and join the party. As history would prove, Elizabeth is the sensible one, Mags the party animal, but they both get into a right old fix when a club they visit turns out to be a brothel.
Jack Reynor co-stars as a dashing soldier, but seems unsure of how to go about being British. And A Royal Night Out is tinny and contrived, a would-be Ealing romp that lacks the necessary style and wit in spades.
Every so often a film comes along that shifts and changes the language of cinema. Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy's drama The Tribe tells the story of Serhiy (Grigoriy Fesenko), a shy teenage boy who's enrolled at a boarding school for the deaf. Almost as soon as he gets there, it becomes apparent that the place is run by a sophisticated teenage criminal gang who is into everything from petty crime to prostitution.
In a conventional film, Grigoriy would be the brave outsider who stands up to these feral thugs, but instead he reveals a talent for violence and rises through their ranks. The gang run riot like a plague of rats, and their attacks happen soundlessly, which gives these scenes an astonishing power, and clarity. The Tribe is a bit like a cross between a Samuel Beckett play and Lord of the Flies. It's shocking, compelling, and ought not be missed.
I was a great fan of Olivier Assayas' last film, Something in the Air, which gracefully elided a classic coming-of-age story with the student protests of 1968. As its title might suggest, Clouds of Sils Maria is a loftier, less-grounded affair, and at times feels like All About Eve had it been directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.
The ageing actress in this piece is Juliette Binoche, resplendent as ever, whose character, Maria Enders, seems entirely exhausted by her success.
When she was 18 she made her name playing a lesbian siren called Sigrid in an acclaimed play. Now a big-shot director wants her to play Sigrid's ageing, bitter older lover in a revival, with a young upstart from Hollywood (Chloe Moretz) taking the plum role. Maria is not amused, and shares her dilemma with her personal assistant Val (an excellent Kristen Stewart).
Val and Maria are close, but their fragile friendship is not an equal one, and is constantly threatened by Maria's childish monomania.
Clouds of Sils Maria is nicely made and wonderfully acted for the most part, but feels forced and artificial and a little too pleased with itself.